For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”   Romans 9:15 (NLT2)

God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others, be kind, humble, gentle, and patient.   Colossians 3:12 (NCV)

You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.   Luke 6:36 (NLT2)

I was talking with someone this morning about the spiritual gift of mercy.   We were discussing whether God had given him this gift and how to identify it.  In the conversation, I shared how I can go to the grocery store on some days and not one person greets me.   It's as though they have no reason to care enough about me to greet me since they don't know me.   On other days someone will recognize me and greet me and sometimes they will engage me in conversation.  

We realized it is uncommon to find mercy in a grocery store.  What I mean by that is, when we see someone we know in a crowd we greet them.  The more we like them, the warmer the welcome.  Since the other people in the crowd do not rise to the same level of importance to us, we just assume that there is no reason to greet them and we pass right on by.   But is that true?    Maybe it is to some degree in a grocery store but what about my church on Sunday morning?   Is this the scenario playing out there? 

I just want to take a minute to thank God for the people who go to my church.   Every Sunday and any other time I see them gather, I see God's compassion flow through them into the lives of total strangers.  It is as though they had known these people all their lives.   Even more, it's as though they know they have no reason to love them but they can sense that God does and that's enough for them.  Why is this? 

Let me explain from the experiece of the man I was speaking with today.   As we were trying to discern why he felt he had this gift of mercy, he shared something of interest.  He said that after the singing on Sunday mornings, when we are encouraged to greet someone next to us, he sometimes feels God asking him to go to the back of the room because visitors tend to take the seats in the back.   It's one thing to comply with a request to greet someone next to you and a totally different thing for the God of the universe to send you to the back of the room to make the one who is most uncomfortable sense His presence and His love.   No, they've done nothing to deserve it - that's why it is called mercy!

I think the next time I go into a grocery store, I'm going to ask God to show me someone who needs to know how special they are to Him.   I'll just assume going in that none of us deserve it and thank God at the same time that He still wants to use me to let someone know what I know.   Because, you see, mercy starts in the heart of God and sometimes, if I'm available, it can flow through me!   I just have to get it through my head that God loves the stranger in the grocery store as much as the stranger at church!